This year I was shocked to see how many teams had good drafts and how few bad ones there were. Now granted, you cannot truly award a draft class with an accurate grade until three or four years down the road, but on paper, these teams all stood out to me.
Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals had an additional first round pick because of the Carson Palmer trade and this allowed them to make some great pickups. With their first pick they took the 3rd best cornerback in the draft (Dre Kirkpatrick), and then they shored up the offensive line by drafting Kevin Zeitler, one of the three best guards in the draft. Then they picked up Devon Still in the 2nd round, who was once considered to be a first round pick. To add to that haul, they added Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver, whose stock was on the rise during the combine. Brandon Thompson will be another run stopping defensive tackle, and getting George Iloka in the 5th round has major value. Orson Charles will help at tight end immediately as well. The Bengals got all of these playmakers while addressing all of their position needs except for defensive end. Draft Grade: A
New England Patriots- The rich get richer. Bill Belichick is an absolute wizard on draft day. He traded up twice (once with each first round pick) in order to get the players he coveted. Chandler Jones will be an impact player as a rush end, while Dont’a Hightower will be an absolute stud at linebacker with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. Taking Tavon Williams, safety Illinois, in the second round when he wasn’t invited to the combine was a major stretch, but if Belichick likes him, he must know something. Plus the value he added by taking Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round, who would have gone in the 2nd or 3rd had he not punched a cop last week, makes this draft solid. Draft Grade: B+
Pittsburgh Steelers- This team had huge holes on the offensive line, starting a league leading 25 different offensive line combinations. They added an absolute road grader in David DeCastro in the first round and picked up Mike Adams in the second to play tackle. Then they immediately addressed the linebacker position, adding Sean Spence to play in the Middle next to Lawrence Timmons. They got a space eater to rotate with Casey Hampton, and then an absolute lightning bolt in Chris Rainey. This draft addressed needs and got value. Draft Grade: A-
Philadelphia Eagles- The Eagles moved up in the first round to take Fletcher Cox, the highest rated defensive tackle in the draft. Then they added defensive playmakers in Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin, all of whom were value picks given that they were selected outside the first round. The Eagles were smart and added Nick Foles to be a backup quarterback, who could develop to be Michael Vick’s eventual replacement. In the 6th round the Eagles added a playmaker at wide receiver in Marvin McNutt and he will be a nice addition as a fourth receiver. Draft Grade: A
San Diego Chargers- The Chargers probably never dreamed that Melvin Ingram would fall to them at the 18th overall selection, but when he did they were quick to take him. Ingram was thought to be a top 10 selection at one point, but his stock fell on draft day. In the second round the Chargers added a mammoth in Kendall Reyes, and Brandon Taylor could be a playmaking safety. Adding David Molk in the 7th round was a huge pickup, and he could turn into a potential starter in the NFL. Draft Grade: B+
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Buccaneers had two first round picks, and unfortunately for them, when they traded down they missed out on Morris Claiborne. But, they were able to add Mark Barron who is bar none the best safety in the draft, and apparently new head coach Greg Schiano will try him at cornerback too. Taking Doug Martin with their second pick in the first round (that they traded up to get) was a brilliant play. LeGarrette Blount was not able to handle the full load last year and was horrible at pass blocking; but this is where Martin will be able to help out. He can pass block and catch out of the backfield and will make the offense more dynamic. In the second round the Buccaneers got great value getting Lavonte David, who despite being undersized for the linebacker position is a big time playmaker. After these three first picks, the Buccaneers could have drafted me and still had a draft grade higher than a B. Draft Grade: A-
Most Intriguing Draft: St. Louis Rams- They traded down from the #2 selection and missed out on Justin Blackmon, then they traded down again and missed out on Michael Floyd, killing any chance of getting Sam Bradford a premier weapon. But they did the right thing and added Michael Brockers, a horse of a defensive tackle that will try to provide stability to their defensive line. Then with their three 2nd round picks, they went and added talent. They added Brian Quick, a wide receiver out of Appalachian State, who has all the physical tools, but who knows if he can make the adjustment to the stiffer competition. Janoris Jenkins is a huge question mark, but if he can stay out of trouble and stay motivated, he is arguably just as talented as Morris Claiborne. Isiah Pead, a runningback out of Cincinnati, will be a good change of pace back and lighten the load for Steven Jackson. This draft has the potential to be one of the best, and all the players that the Rams drafted have high ceilings, but it will be interesting to see how these players plan out. Draft Grade: B, Potential Future Grade: A